Will Cape York FIFO workers get fast-tracked COVID vaccine?

 

STAFF at mining giant Rio Tinto's major Far North Queensland operations are unlikely to be included in the region's fast-tracked COVID vaccine as the crisis deepens at neighbouring islands.

A Rio Tinto spokesman said the company, which has mining operations in Weipa, would comply with any government directives but already had strict COVID protocols in place to safeguard workers against the virus and its spread.

"All employees and contractors must undertake a multi-layered screening program before accessing Weipa operations," the spokesman said.

"Our screening regimen reflects the Queensland government's hotspot declarations and our own contractor management controls."

Offshore bauxite leading from Metro Mining's Bauxite Hills mine, 100km north of Weipa. Picture: SUPPLIED
Offshore bauxite leading from Metro Mining's Bauxite Hills mine, 100km north of Weipa. Picture: SUPPLIED


Rio's fly-in-fly-out workers fly direct from Weipa to Cairns, with no passenger routes stopping from the Torres Strait or Papua New Guinea. Staff are temperature screened at Weipa Airport, at shift start and transport points.

"(We) have responded to government hotspot declarations swiftly with our own more stringent screening controls at Weipa," the spokesman said

The worsening virus numbers has Queensland Health authorities eager to offer the vaccine to adults on Boigu, Saibai and Badu islands in the Torres Strait.

A Dash 8 aircraft on the ground at OK Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea. The mine operates a weekly service between PNG’s Western Province and Cairns Airport.
A Dash 8 aircraft on the ground at OK Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea. The mine operates a weekly service between PNG’s Western Province and Cairns Airport.

A soft launch of the COVID vaccination was held at Thursday Island Hospital on Friday ahead of the start of the overall Torres Strait vaccination rollout on Saibai Island from Monday.

Among the first people to be vaccinated were Torres Strait community Elders Diai and Bana Luffman, as well as community Elder Sam Mills who is also a clinical nurse at Thursday Island Hospital.

Saibai Island health worker Rotona Martin, who will be with the vaccination team when the program formally rolls out to her community, also had the jab.

Saibai Island indigenous health worker Rotona Martin gets her COVID vaccination.
Saibai Island indigenous health worker Rotona Martin gets her COVID vaccination.

Torres and Cape executive director of medical services Dr Tony Brown said: "I'd like to pay tribute to all who rolled up their sleeves today. It's a great example to the rest of the community in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area."

It comes as Cairns Hospital this week issued a code yellow alert, cancelled on Friday, after an influx of patients from Papua New Guinea. The Ok Tedi copper mine in PNG has suspended its charter flights into Cairns following a spate of positive cases.

A new case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Cairns region on Friday. The case is not linked to the Ok Tedi mine.

Originally published as Will Cape York FIFO workers get fast-tracked COVID vaccine?


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